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What Is The Federal “Kingpin” Statute?
In the 1970s and 1980s, South Florida was beset by drug cartels, primarily based in Colombia, as they fought amongst themselves and with police while trying to take over the drug trade in the state. One of the laws used to help combat their influence was the Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) statute, also referred to as the ‘kingpin’ statute, designed to neuter the influence of cartels and other large drug organizations by trying their leaders. While the statute is not used often, it is worth being aware of in case you get involved in business beyond your control.
Each Step Must Be Proven
The specific crime defined under the CCE is described as continuing to commit a series of felony offenses, “in concert” with 5 or more individuals (a criminal enterprise). The “kingpin” of such an enterprise is the person defined as an organizer or a leader who receives substantial resources or compensation out of the endeavor. These people will obviously be few and far between, but Florida prosecutors are not afraid to use this statute if they believe that it applies in your situation.
It is difficult to establish someone’s guilt under the CCE statute, because prosecutors must prove that the person who is being tried has committed each part of the offense, or the charge of CCE does not apply. The prosecutors must establish five separate criteria, which are:
- Showing that the defendant committed a drug crime under federal law;
- Establishing a “continuing series of federal drug felony violations;”
- The violations must have been committed “in concert” with five or more people;
- The defendant must allegedly have served as an organizer or some other type of leader within the organization; and
- The defendant must have received substantial income or other resources from the organization.
Penalties Are Very Severe
If you are charged with a continuing criminal enterprise, know that while defenses exist that may mitigate the circumstances, the penalties upon conviction are extremely harsh. Even a first-time offender may face a jail sentence with a minimum of 20 years, with a maximum of life in prison, as well as being required to surrender any property acquired in connection with the enterprise, and pay fines that can range into the millions of dollars.
Keep in mind that as of this writing, being charged with a continuing criminal enterprise related to any kind of methamphetamines, the benchmark needed to trigger CCE liability is lowered from 300 times to 200 times, as well as the potential fines being doubled to $10 million. Methamphetamines are seen as such a particularly virulent threat to society that the law carved out a separate sentencing rule for those convicted of selling and trafficking them.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Crimes Attorney
Many of the most recent CCE cases have involved Florida residents or natives, but this does not mean that Floridians are any more criminally inclined than others. Still, if you are charged with contributing to a continuing criminal enterprise, you need an experienced West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney quickly. The firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. is ready and willing to try and assist you. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.